DOMAIN EXPERTISE X ROBOTICS PROCESS AUTOMATION
Our client, UK’s leading energy and home services provider had begun feeling the heat.
The increasing entry of smaller, more nimble players since the late ‘90s, had turned the energy market in Britain hyper-competitive. The dynamics of the energy market made it imperative for the company to reduce costs and keep energy tariffs low, so that customers would not switch to competitors. Solving this issue would take automating many processes, fast.
With this in mind, the provider set up a robotics process automation (RPA) centre of excellence (CoE) to cut costs through automation of back-office processes. However, many of the company’s back office processes were outsourced to vendors. A lack of detailed process understanding could pose a severe risk to service delivery during the course of the automation journey.
"The dynamics of the energy market made it imperative for the company to reduce costs and keep energy tariffs low, so that customers would not switch to competitors. Solving this issue would take automating many processes, fast."
That’s why the company turned for help to EXL, their strategic partner for business process management, transformation and analytics for over 12 years.
EXL had been delivering improved revenue and compliance as well as reduced cost of operations for the client for several years in a row. Its domain experience and in-depth knowledge of the company’s processes gave it an advantage in taking on the challenges of building a large digital workforce within a short time frame. To do this, it brought into play its global RPA development experience and robust proprietary change management framework.
Utilizing its deep knowledge of client’s back-office processes, EXL first undertook a detailed RPA feasibility assessment to identify all the processes that could be automated. The study encompassed over 500 unique processes across four lines of business and covered over 20 proprietary and third party IT applications that were being used. EXL also identified several processes where internal transformation initiatives were already underway that could conflict with automation efforts.
Using the data generated by the feasibility study, the EXL team categorized back-office processes based on their complexity. Then, prioritizing these processes based on potential benefits, EXL developed a phased approach towards automating them.
This approach had two components that would run in parallel. First, redundant activities within the processes that were not adding value would be eliminated. Second, the streamlined processes would be digitized in three waves, beginning with processes of low complexity and progressing to extremely complex processes.
An early pilot project had revealed that client’s systems and change management policies were not prepared for large-scale automation. For instance, the company’s HR systems and policies were not designed to deal with a digital workforce that would not need payroll, or for that matter, supervisors. The IT architecture would also need reworking to allow robots to function efficiently.
With this in-depth understanding of the process landscape and understanding of automation-related challenges, the EXL team developed an outcome-linked commercial model with an innovative per-BOT service charge.
EXL began fixing upstream and downstream system issues across multiple processes, and started improving data quality. This reduced unnecessary exceptions and, thereby, automation costs. In parallel, a separate automation team took end-to-end accountability for process diagnostics, documentation, solution design, development testing, golive, and ongoing bot administration.
Skillsets in the robotics domain are both rare and in perpetual short supply. EXL began recruiting the right talent in earnest, onboarding over 43 skilled RPA developers, four technical leads, and two technical architects within seven weeks to setup an offshore RPA CoE for the client. To support this technical talent, EXL also deployed over 50 quality analysts and process experts to provide the necessary domain knowledge and reduce implementation risks. With this large team on the job, and developers working in dual shifts, over 130 bots were deployed in less than eight months, with 50 more added later. In all, the initiative spanned over 80 process activities handled by 200 FTEs.
To tackle the company’s systemic challenges, EXL deployed its robust change management framework, and actively coordinated between client’s operations process owners, IS teams, the inhouse RPA CoE, and finance and procurement teams to fast-track the change deployment.
While many organizations have attempted large-scale RPA programs, few have stabilized within such a short time frame, and fewer still have achieved sustainable benefits. But, EXL’s digital workforce initiative has achieved what was previously unimaginable.
Over 500,000 non-value adding transactions were eliminated without any negative impact on customer experience. Over 180 bots were successfully deployed across more than 35 processes leading to savings of over 200 FTEs. The cost of offshore operations reduced by £0.77M from 2017-2018 through automation alone, and the recurring yearly savings because of the overall initiative are projected to be £1.7M.
With the new digital process teams ticking along smoothly, EXL has also set up a digital command centre for real-time performance tracking and alerts.
Given the success of its digital workforce, client has laid out a future roadmap for more complex processes to be automated. EXL will continue driving these future initiatives through leveraging more advanced technologies such as machine learning, natural language processing, fuzzy logic, and prescriptive models.
End customers are also benefitting from better customer service. For instance, when maintenance requests spike during the winter, the easily scalable bot workforce is able to process service requests faster and with fewer errors.
- Hyper-competition in the UK energy market leading to pricing pressures
- Slow pace of internal automation efforts due to lack of process expertise
- Risk of a faulty implementation impacting customer experience
- A detailed feasibility assessment identified processes that could be automated
- Predictive analytics helped develop a dual-pronged, three-phase approach for large-scale automation
- Systemic challenges to the success of the initiative were studied
- The outcome linked commercial model included an innovative per BOT service charge
- Over 40 skilled RPA developers onboarded within two months, and over 130 bots deployed within eight months
- Over 50 process experts brought in to support automation efforts
- Robust change management framework deployed
- Operations, IS, RPA CoE, Finance, and Procurement teams worked together to fast-track issue resolution
- Over 500,000 non-value adding processes eliminated without any negative impact on customer experience
- 180 bots deployed across over 35 processes with savings of over 200 FTEs
- Digital command centre provides real-time performance tracking and alerts
- Cost of offshore operations reduced by £0.77M in 2017-18
- Yearly recurring savings projected at £1.7M
- Future roadmap laid out for automation of more complex processes